Committee Takes No Action on Streetcar
Public Works Committee votes to send streetcar proposal to full council, setting up a showdown Dec. 16th.
In a predicted decision, the Public Works Committee voted to place on file the resolution authorizing the Department of Public Works to move forward with the Milwaukee Streetcar. The make-up of the committee all but insured the tabling vote, given that two of its five members are running against incumbent mayor and streetcar proponent Tom Barrett. The parliamentary maneuvering sets up a full Common Council floor debate on the issue on December 16th.
The Public Works Committee is chaired by streetcar legislation sponsor Ald. Robert Bauman and vice chaired by streetcar co-sponsor Ald. Willie Wade, but also sitting on the committee are aldermen Robert Donovan and Joe Davis, Sr., both candidates for mayor who oppose the streetcar. The fifth member of the committee is Ald. Jim Bohl, who had voted against approving the financing package for the streetcar at yesterday’s Zoning Neighborhoods & Development Committee.
The meeting this morning was much different from the public hearing on the project held yesterday in the Zoning, Neighborhoods & Development Committee. Yesterday’s meeting had an extremely rare presentation from the mayor, while today’s meeting featured City Engineer Jeff Polenske and Department of Public Works Commissioner Ghassan Korban walking through a more engineering focused presentation. While the mayor’s presentation wasn’t interrupted and took approximately 15 minutes, today’s presentation was repeatedly interrupted to the point that it took two nearly two hours to reach something of a conclusion.
Whether it comes in December or January, the council will eventually take action on the files. As alderman Wade remarked today “this ain’t a slam dunk,” but there does appear to enough votes to get the project passed. Of the 15 member council, four members (Bohl, Davis, Donovan, Tony Zielinski) have made their opposition known, four are sponsors of the legislation (Bauman, Ashanti Hamilton, Nik Kovac, Wade), and two more have voted for it in committee (aldermen Jose Perez and Russell Stamper). During the last approval in 2011, council members Milele Coggs, Robert Puente and Terry Witkowski also voted for the project, but have not indicated publicly how they intend to vote this time. Council president Michael Murphy also voted against the project last time, but has not indicated publicly his stance on the final approval.
Perhaps the most unusual aspect of the meeting was how quiet Donovan was, speaking far less words than he’s issued in streetcar press releases. Donovan did attack Polenske for saying the city engineers had reached 60 percent design in the project by August 2013. Donovan said this contradicted what Polenske had said in the past, but Polenske and Korban clarified this didn’t mean it was 60 percent engineered, given the lack of response from the utilities back in 2013.
Donovan also made the first motion of the meeting, during the repeatedly derailed presentation, motioning to place the file on hold for one session. He argued that the mayor was fast tracking the proposal, while Bauman disagreed, saying the last vote on the project was in 2011 and the funds date back to 1991. Donovan also said he was opposed to the use of tax incremental financing for the project and that he was awaiting a legal opinion from the city attorney as to whether the bonds issued by the Redevelopment Authority of the City of Milwaukee were eligible to be voted on in a referendum. City officials have said such funding cannot be made subject to a referendum.
The other mayoral candidate in the room wasn’t nearly as quiet. Davis was loud and fast as he railed against the project at length. Davis asked about MCTS ridership data along the route, which sent Comptroller Martin Matson running to his office to get an email from Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission director Ken Yunker (poor Marty was never given the chance to speak again as Davis had moved on, even though Matson had the data). Davis claimed the project wouldn’t help any of his constituents or others that aren’t Downtown, which drew the ire of alderman Bauman.
Davis went on to rail against the mayor’s claim that millenials support the project, calling them “millenniums” repeatedly and asking if his “black millenniums” matter. Davis hammered on the fact that not a single constituent has called him about the project.
Davis also asked about the effects of our cold climate on the proposed streetcar tracks. Project consultant Ashley Booth of HNTB responded, noting that planners have studied other systems – the Minneapolis – St. Paul light rail system in particular. Booth noted that while the Twin Cities runs as a light rail system outside of Downtown, it operates using the same trackbed technology as the Milwaukee Streetcar would when operating downtown.
Ashley went on to note that the project will employ drains within the concrete slab the tracks will rest in, to drain rain and melting snow. He went on to note that like in the Twin Cities, where they haven’t had serious weather-related maintenance issues, the Milwaukee Streetcar system would use rebar to support the concrete structure.
Following up on a question Davis had asked in a Steering & Rules Committee meeting last week, Booth noted that the Twin Cities system had shut down only once because of weather (an ice storm). Davis, without offering evidence, had contended the system regularly shut down because of weather during the prior committee meeting.
In one of the funnier moments, after Bauman repeatedly suggested Davis was simply raising “partisan” objections because of his his mayoral run, Davis stated “I’m not being disingenuous, I’m being Joe Davis.”
Move to Approve
Wade ultimately moved to approve the resolution before the committee, which failed 2-3 (Bauman, Wade ayes). Bohl than made a motion to place the resolution on file, which passed with four votes (Bauman, Bohl, Donovan, Wade). This move sends the file to the full council without a recommendation or requirement for anything beyond a simple majority vote to approve.
Renderings and Maps
Urban Milwaukee Streetcar Coverage
- Committee Takes No Action on Streetcar – Jeramey Jannene – December 10th, 2014
- Committee Approves Milwaukee Streetcar – Jeramey Jannene – December 9th, 2014
- RACM Approves Tax Funding for Streetcar – Michael Horne – December 8th, 2014
- How to Sell the Streetcar – Michael Horne – November 28th, 2014
- Next Stops for the Streetcar – Michael Horne – November 24th, 2014
- Barrett Moving Forward with Streetcar – Jeramey Jannene – November 18th, 2014
- Who Will Be Streetcar Operator – Michael Horne – May 8th, 2014
- A Streetcar Named Cooperation? – Dave Reid – April 27th, 2014
- How a Streetcar Spurs Development – Angie Schmitt – November 3rd, 2013
- Streetcar Social – Michael Horne – September 12th, 2013
- Mayor Says Streetcar is a “Trojan Horse” – Michael Horne – April 17th, 2013
- Whoops, We Changed Our Mind – Dave Reid – September 27th, 2012
- Battle of the Bobs: Donovan vs Bauman Streetcar Press Conference – Jeramey Jannene – May 18th, 2012
- Important Hoan Bridge and Milwaukee Streetcar Meetings This Week – Dave Reid – November 14th, 2011
- Milwaukee Streetcar Passes Common Council – Jeramey Jannene – July 26th, 2011
- Keep the Milwaukee Streetcar Moving Forward – Jeramey Jannene – July 8th, 2011
- Milwaukee Streetcar at Apex – Jeramey Jannene – June 16th, 2011
- Milwaukee Streetcar Takes Key Step Forward – Jeramey Jannene – May 6th, 2010
- Milwaukee Streetcar Meeting This Thursday – Jeramey Jannene – October 5th, 2009
- Milwaukee Streetcar Routes Unveiled by Mayor Barrett – Jeramey Jannene – September 21st, 2009
- Milwaukee Streetcar Round-Up – Jeramey Jannene – April 19th, 2009
- Vote for your Favorite Milwaukee Streetcar Route – Jeramey Jannene – March 25th, 2009
- Design Your Own Streetcar Route – Jeramey Jannene – March 23rd, 2009
- Streetcars Coming to Milwaukee – Dave Reid – March 14th, 2009
Have an Opinion?
Let the Common Council and Mayor know what you think about the project via the form on our website. We’ll keep it open until the expected project vote on December 16th.
More about the Milwaukee Streetcar
For more information on project details, how the operator will be selected, what the vehicles will be like, and possible extensions, see our extensive past coverage.
- Eyes on Milwaukee: County Gets Waiver on Streetcar - Jeramey Jannene - Apr 17th, 2017
- Eyes on Milwaukee: Streetcar Rails Being Welded - Jeramey Jannene - Apr 7th, 2017
- Eyes on Milwaukee: City Won’t Delay Streetcar for County - Jeramey Jannene - Mar 28th, 2017
- Eyes on Milwaukee: County Board Okays Bid for Streetcar - Jeramey Jannene - Mar 23rd, 2017
- Eyes on Milwaukee: Streetcar Track Steel Has Arrived - Jeramey Jannene - Mar 16th, 2017
- Eyes on Milwaukee: Should County Operate Streetcar? - Jeramey Jannene - Mar 8th, 2017
- Eyes on Milwaukee: Streetcar Track Construction Starts in April - Jeramey Jannene - Feb 17th, 2017
- Streetsblog: 80 Transit Projects in 2017 - Angie Schmitt - Feb 6th, 2017
- Eyes on Milwaukee: The Milwaukee Streetcar is Hiring - Jeramey Jannene - Jan 20th, 2017
- Eyes on Milwaukee: Streetcar Project Receives Federal Grant - Jeramey Jannene - Oct 12th, 2016
- Eyes on Milwaukee: Cincinnati Streetcar Opens - Jeramey Jannene - Sep 19th, 2016
- Eyes on Milwaukee: Council Okays Streetcar to Bucks Arena - Jeramey Jannene - Jul 6th, 2016
- Eyes on Milwaukee: $6.5 Million in Streetcar Savings - Jeramey Jannene - Feb 26th, 2016
- Eyes on Milwaukee: Donovan Lies About Streetcar Suit - Jeramey Jannene - Feb 15th, 2016
- Eyes on Milwaukee: BID Sells Streetcar-Related Development - Jeramey Jannene - Jan 15th, 2016
- Murphy’s Law: Do Millennials Oppose the Streetcar? - Bruce Murphy - Dec 15th, 2015
- Eyes on Milwaukee: Pennsylvania Company Wins Streetcar Contract - Jeramey Jannene - Nov 13th, 2015
- Plenty of Horne: City Accepts $14 Million Federal Streetcar Grant - Michael Horne - Oct 29th, 2015
- Back in the News: Anti-Streetcar Petition Dies - Bruce Murphy - Aug 28th, 2015
- Eyes on Milwaukee: Scott Walker Aids Milwaukee Streetcar - Jeramey Jannene - Jul 13th, 2015
- Eyes on Milwaukee: Streetcar Construction Starts in October - Jeramey Jannene - Jul 10th, 2015
- Murphy’s Law: The Strange Politics of Anti-Streetcar-ites - Bruce Murphy - Jun 18th, 2015
- Plenty of Horne: Bucks Plan Envisions Arena Streetcar - Michael Horne - Apr 8th, 2015
- A Short History of Milwaukee’s Old Streetcar System - Ken Smith - Mar 31st, 2015
- Plenty of Horne: Davis Sets, Cancels Meeting on Streetcar - Michael Horne - Mar 17th, 2015
- Back in the News: Anti-Streetcar Petition Drive Fails - Bruce Murphy - Mar 5th, 2015
- Friday Photos: Streetcar Signing Is Quite a Celebration - Michael Horne - Feb 13th, 2015
- Eyes on Milwaukee: Milwaukee Streetcar Approved - Jeramey Jannene - Feb 10th, 2015
- Murphy’s Law: Who is “Lobbying” For the Streetcar? - Bruce Murphy - Feb 5th, 2015
- Data Wonk: Will Streetcar Help The Inner City? - Bruce Thompson - Feb 4th, 2015
- Back in the News: City Attorney Says Streetcar Petitions Might be Moot - Bruce Murphy - Jan 30th, 2015
- Data Wonk: Millennials And The Streetcar - Bruce Thompson - Jan 27th, 2015
- Op-Ed: Why I Support the Streetcar - Russell Rossetto - Jan 26th, 2015
- Eyes on Milwaukee: Streetcar Responses Shows Wide Support - Jeramey Jannene - Jan 22nd, 2015
- Eyes on Milwaukee: Streetcar Approved, but Held - Jeramey Jannene - Jan 21st, 2015
- Murphy’s Law: Koch-Funded Group Backs Anti-Streetcar Drive - Bruce Murphy - Jan 20th, 2015
- Eyes on Milwaukee: Streetcar Backers Say They Have the Votes - Jeramey Jannene - Jan 20th, 2015
- Murphy’s Law: Who Is Funding the Anti-Streetcar Effort? - Bruce Murphy - Jan 20th, 2015
- Op Ed: Why the Streetcar Won’t Work - Samuel Jensen - Jan 14th, 2015
- Murphy’s Law: Will Anti-Streetcar Referendum Succeed? - Bruce Murphy - Jan 9th, 2015
- The Story Behind the Streetcar Referendum - Michael Horne and Bruce Murphy - Jan 8th, 2015
- Eyes on Milwaukee: Council Delays Streetcar Until January - Jeramey Jannene - Dec 16th, 2014
- Eyes on Milwaukee: Committee Takes No Action on Streetcar - Jeramey Jannene - Dec 10th, 2014
- Eyes on Milwaukee: Committee Approves Milwaukee Streetcar - Jeramey Jannene - Dec 9th, 2014
- Plenty of Horne: RACM Approves Tax Funding for Streetcar - Michael Horne - Dec 2nd, 2014
- Plenty of Horne: How to Sell the Streetcar - Michael Horne - Nov 28th, 2014
- Plenty of Horne: Next Stops For The Streetcar - Michael Horne - Nov 24th, 2014
- Eyes on Milwaukee: Barrett Moving Forward With Streetcar - Jeramey Jannene - Nov 18th, 2014
- Plenty of Horne: Who Will Be Streetcar Operator? - Michael Horne - May 8th, 2014
- Back in the News: A Streetcar Named Cooperation? - Dave Reid - Apr 27th, 2014
- Streetsblog: How a Streetcar Spurs Development - Angie Schmitt - Nov 3rd, 2013
- Plenty of Horne: Streetcar Social - Michael Horne - Sep 12th, 2013
- Republicans Move to Kill Milwaukee Streetcar - Jeramey Jannene - May 9th, 2013
- Plenty of Horne: Mayor Says Streetcar is “Trojan Horse” - Michael Horne - Apr 17th, 2013
- Streetcar Meeting on Tuesday - Jeramey Jannene - Oct 29th, 2012
- Donovan’s New Anti-Streetcar Allies - Jeramey Jannene - Aug 16th, 2012
- Battle of the Bobs: Donovan vs Bauman Streetcar Press Conference - Jeramey Jannene - May 18th, 2012
- Milwaukee Streetcar Hearing at Frontier Airlines Center - Jeramey Jannene - Nov 15th, 2011
- Important Hoan Bridge and Milwaukee Streetcar Meetings this Week - Dave Reid - Nov 14th, 2011
- Milwaukee Streetcar Passes Common Council, Proceeds to Final Engineering - Jeramey Jannene - Jul 26th, 2011
- Alderman Donovan Proposes Delaying the Streetcar Project - Dave Reid - Jul 19th, 2011
- Barrett says Streetcar is an investment in growing Milwaukee - Patti Wenzel - Jul 13th, 2011
- Keep the Milwaukee Streetcar Moving Forward - Jeramey Jannene - Jul 8th, 2011
- Milwaukee Streetcar at Apex - Jeramey Jannene - Jun 16th, 2011
- Milwaukee Streetcar Takes Key Step Forward - Jeramey Jannene - May 6th, 2010
- Streetcars and Trams Around the World - Dave Reid - Feb 1st, 2010
- Milwaukee Streetcar Meeting This Thursday - Jeramey Jannene - Oct 5th, 2009
- Downtown Streetcar Open House - Jeramey Jannene - Sep 23rd, 2009
- Milwaukee Streetcar Routes Unveiled by Mayor Barrett - Jeramey Jannene - Sep 21st, 2009
- Common Council Creates Streetcar Committee - Dave Reid - Jun 18th, 2009
- Milwaukee Streetcar Round-Up - Jeramey Jannene - Apr 19th, 2009
- Vote For Your Favorite Milwaukee Streetcar Route - Jeramey Jannene - Mar 25th, 2009
- Design Your Own Streetcar Route - Jeramey Jannene - Mar 23rd, 2009
- Milwaukee Streetcar Map - Jeramey Jannene - Mar 21st, 2009
- Streetcars Coming to Milwaukee - Dave Reid - Mar 14th, 2009
- Palomar or Streetcar? - Jeramey Jannene - Jan 22nd, 2009